There’s Room for Improvement in AEW Women’s Division
All Elite Wrestling (AEW) has a few pay-per-views and nine months under their belt, and it’s clear there’s still room for improvement in one particular area: AEW Women’s Division.
A few years ago, when critics drew attention to Ring of Honor’s inability to draw a crowd, Cody Rhodes, Nick Jackson and Matt Jackson took matters into their own hands, creating the event All In.
All In sold out in 30 minutes, and (at that time) had the largest audience for a show held and organized in America, that wasn’t affiliated with WWE or WCW, in nearly 25 years.
Rhodes and the Young Bucks left ROH in late 2018, and on Jan. 1, announced the formation of their own wrestling promotion, with the help of Shahid and Tony Khan as backers, and Brandi Rhodes as the Chief Brand Officer.
Prior to AEW’s inaugural press conference, Brandi made their intentions clear when it came to their women’s division: women would be given the spotlight they deserve. Brandi spent a large portion of the press conference discussing the women AEW had signed, the direction they intended to go with the division, and how the company planned on putting heavy emphasis on a group of wrestlers that other companies wouldn’t.
Since their first press conference, the buzz around AEW’s women’s division grew. With every signing, fans got a clearer picture at what the women’s landscape would look like: a full mixture of women that defined the idea of inclusive. We couldn’t wait to see what plans AEW had in store for their women.
Four pay-per-views have occurred under the AEW name: Double Or Nothing, Fyter Fest, Fight For The Fallen, and All Out. In all four pay-per-views, the statistics that have surfaced have put a damper on the excitement of a new direction for women’s wrestling.
There were nine matches during AEW’s inaugural May 25 pay-per-view, Double Or Nothing. Of the nine matches, only two were women’s matches: a fatal four-way between Britt Baker, Nyla Rose, Kylie Rae and Awesome Kong (with Brandi Rhodes), lasting 11 minutes and 10 seconds. It was the second match on the main card, and the shortest match on main card. The second was a 6-woman tag team match with Hikaru Shida, Riho and Ryo Mizunami vs. Aja Kong, Emi Sakura and Yuka Sakazaki, clocking in at 13:50.
On June 29, AEW held Fyter Fest in Daytona Beach. Of the nine matches in that show, two were women’s matches: a pre-show match between Allie and Leva Bates at eight minutes and 50 seconds, and a triple-threat match between Riho, Yuka Sakazaki and Rose that lasted 12 minutes and 30 seconds. The pre-show match was the shortest of the night. The triple-threat was second on the main card, and the third shortest on the main card.
A few weeks later, Fight For The Fallen was held in Jacksonville, Florida. There were nine matches on that card, as well, with two women’s matches. A pre-show tag team match featuring Bea Priestley and Shoko Nakajima vs. Baker and Riho. The match lasted 15 minutes and 40 seconds. The pre-show match was longer than the women’s main card match between Brandi Rhodes and Allie, which lasted 11 minutes, the shortest match on the main card.
It was announced that at All Out on Aug. 31, the pre-show would feature a 21-woman Casino Battle Royal, with the winner to secure a spot in the match for the inaugural women’s championship, live at their first television broadcast on Oct. 2 on TNT.
The announcement stirred up excitement, with guesses being thrown around as to who would appear in the event. Plenty of women wrestlers from the independent circuit made their appearance, and the match had it’s fair share of exciting moments.
The other women’s match on All Out was a singles match that determined Rose’s opponent for the first AEW Women’s Championship: Riho vs. Shida. The match landed in the middle of the card, and was the shortest on the main card at 13 minutes and 35 seconds.
The AEW women’s roster has 10 women listed. Of the 10 women, two (Sadie Gibbs and Penelope Ford) have yet to have a spotlight match, only having a part in the Casino Battle Royal. Since the formation of AEW, Kylie Rae has parted ways with the company, in what is arguably a weird shroud of privacy.
It’s fair to argue that fans can’t possibly evaluate the promotion’s performance when they haven’t started televising shows, yet. There’s really only four shows we can base any opinion on. However, if there’s any implication to the outlook of the women’s division thus far, it’s that AEW has certainly not taken steps to ensure women’s wrestling is highlighted or progressed.
The diversity of the women’s roster is clear and focused. There’s stars from joshi programs. Nyla Rose is a transgender person. There’s women from U.S. and U.K. indies. They have taken the time to carefully choose who they decide to feature at their shows.
But, if the matches are short, early on the card (or in the pre-show), infrequent, or don’t feature the whole roster, then the importance of the diversity and inclusiveness of the division certainly lessens.
Brandi Rhodes has spoken for months regarding the plans for the women’s division, including a larger landscape, health-forward approach, talent-sharing option, and progressive recruiting techniques. If AEW wants to continue their mission of being different than other, similar promotions, they shouldn’t alienate a large portion of their market. By falling into old routines seen throughout the industry, AEW will let down fans who hold true to the idea that women should be treated fairly in wrestling.
The first televised AEW show happens in less than a month, and the women’s title is being pushed as a highlight of the evening. AEW should rest assured that the audience is paying close attention to how the women’s roster is being treated and showcased.
Let’s hope the promotion continues to advance the industry, one woman at a time.